Growing up my dad didn't do much without a background movie on. With the exception of yard work and vacuuming I'm fairly certain he did every other task, including painting rooms and cutting wood for projects, with a movie on. I can still recite most lines from the old Pink Panther movies starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Chief Inspecter Jacques Clouseau, and the Charlie Chan films are a close second.
I give it an hour before my dad calls to inform me of all of the things he did without a movie on. Maybe half an hour.
But I'm pretty sure that's where my need for background comes from. Who wants to work in complete silence anyway? I need something to actively tune out, to force me to focus on the task at hand.
As I write this it seems completely unhealthy to need this push, but Netflix is cheaper than therapy, so what're you gonna do?
I have three staples as background that fit my one and only requirement, which is that I've seen them so many times that I know what's happening without having to watch, and I can look up at any given time, watch for a brief moment, and return to what I was doing without any confusion as to what's happened or what I've missed.
These are The Office, any of The Lord of the Rings movies, and The Guild.
A close runner up is the cafe at Books-A-Million. Starbucks is too loud and busy and the library is insufferably silent, but Books-A-Million is the right balance of chairs scraping and (sometimes) quiet conversation that's neither overly interesting or punch-me-in-the-face boring.
What about you? Do you need background or do you prefer silence?